By Pini Jason
Since he became the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has ruffled a few feathers. He has attracted controversy the way sugar attracts ants over some of CBN’s policies. The most recent controversy concerns the currency restructuring exercise codenamed “Project CURE”.
As far as his critics are concerned, Project CURE is another name for the now suspended proposal to issue a N5000 note.
I wonder how many people whose jaws did not drop in horror as they read the pummelling of Sanusi by Otunba Dele Momodu in his column PENDULUM in Thisday of Saturday, 22 September 2012. I am expressing my horror publicly because we must want justice not just for ourselves but also for even our enemies!
A column is a public forum and does not belong to the author per se! Dele Momodu is the publisher of Ovation, an international celebrity magazine and a former presidential candidate in the 2011 election.
And when you vie for the highest office in the land, you become a senior citizen, even if you do not believe it. You are not expected to demean the high office you vied for or diminish yourself and your generation.
First, let me put some vital points in perspective. In a recent notice by the CBN announcing the suspension of the issuance of N5000 note, the Bank said: “Under Section 19(1) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, the currency notes and coins issued by the Bank shall be, (a) in such denomination of the Naira or fractions thereof as shall be approved by the President on the recommendation of the Board and, (b) of such forms and designs and bear such devices as shall be approved by the President on the recommendation of the board”.
The notice went on: “The CBN hereby informs the general public that the President, on Thursday September 20, 2012, directed that further action on the approved restructuring exercise be stopped”. It is, therefore, clearly wrong to imply that one man just ran off on his own to impose the currency restructuring on the nation without approval from the President. Here the buck ought to stop on the President’s desk!
It was the suspension of the N5000 note that many celebrated as if it was a personal defeat of Sanusi. In celebrating what they regarded as victory over Sanusi, many lost sight of what the issue is and went physical with Sanusi. Dele Momodu who cannot be described as an inexperienced journalist crossed the line when he resorted to body punches and even ear biting!
As I read him, I kept asking myself, what has all the personal abuse got to do with Project CURE? It was obvious that Momodu was venting accumulated anger. For example, he spent seven paragraphs, half of the page, recalling Nigeria’s history of limited attention span and “acute psychological impairment”. I agreed with him. But what has our national failings got to do with Sanusi?
If we are “a neurotic society and a vindictive population” is that of Sanusi’s making? Was that why he tried to issue a N5000 note? I kept asking, where was this pent up fury coming from? Going down the literary brutalization of Sanusi one could only put a finger on Sanusi’s sacking of some bank chief executives and his putting down General Obasanjo as a bad economist as the source of the provocation.
No doubt, Sanusi’s sacking of some bank CEOs a few years ago affected some of our friends and must have annoyed us. In fact, I agree with Momodu that: “In the process, he stepped on too many toes”. But the same Momodu admitted of the existence of a “cesspool of banking mess”!
And Nigerians even wanted to blame Prof Soludo for not sanitizing the banks during his consolidation. Such critics even forgot that Soludo rolled out a 13-point restructuring agenda which included the measures Sanusi carried out, although typical of our “acute psychological impairment” we focused only on the N25 billion capitalization!
Because his tenure was not renewed, we are never to know if he would have taken the steps Sanusi took. Secondly, one could feel Momodu’s outrage for Sanusi having the temerity to join issues with Obasanjo! But I would have preferred Momodu to contradict Sanusi on the fact that Obasanjo introduced higher denominations during his tenure and that the introduction of such denominations did not cause inflation! That is what we should debate!
The reason why I was horrified by Momodu’s uploading the entire Wikipedia to buttress his personal abuse is that he unwittingly gave Sanusi powers he did not have and elevated him to a tin god! Sanusi is not CBN, no matter how privileged his birth and how charming he is!
The CBN has a Board that makes recommendations to the President who in turn approves or rejects. Let us recall that as Governor, Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo proposed to re-denominate our currency. President Umaru Yar’Adua overruled him and that was the end of the matter. As the Governor, Sanusi has a responsibility to speak for the CBN.
That should not make us misinform Nigerians that he is the alpha and omega, no matter how princely he carries himself. He is just an employee of the Executive and if the President had not reversed himself on the N5000 note, Sanusi on his own could not have done so. And, by the way, what if Sanusi is rumoured to have presidential ambition? Is political ambition a crime?
I make this intervention for two very important reasons. Momodu did an expert psycho-analysis of Nigerians as fickle minded people. Now my question is, for how long shall those of us privileged to influence opinion continue to tell our fickle-minded people what they want to hear instead of what they need to face up to? We have had too many Pyrrhic victories over the government on critical policies.
Are we helping our people by seducing them to sidetrack what we must do? How do we get to a better tomorrow if we insist on being rooted to now? I agree with Momodu that Nigerians are a peculiar people. We want an omelet but we become hysterical when an egg is broken. We relish porcupine meat but we are afraid of its quills.
We loot our country and flee to other countries built by the sweats of their citizens but would not make the same sacrifice for our own country. We are now frustrated largely because we have sentenced our lives to the insatiability of materialism instead of enduring values. The more we are confronted by the insatiability, the more we easily lash out!
Secondly, I am worried by the culture of abuse as substitute for debate. As a result, all institutions we used to respect have been trashed and recklessly debased. Nobody and nothing is good in our country anymore. This self immolating cynicism is breeding an insipid nihilism and national self-doubt.
Can we restrict ourselves to the facts of a debate without personal insults? Momodu wasted a whole valuable, expensive and a vantage page on vituperation and abuse of Sanusi at the expense of a cogent debate about the effect of Project CURE on our economy. As an opinion leader, he cheated readers like me of the expected elucidation of the effect of Project CURE against the CBN’s reasons for the project. I am not better informed by reading Momodu and that is very unfortunate!